By Staff Reporter
CHIPINGE: The 6% rural electrification fund (REF) levy is not adequate to fund the programme to power rural communities, leaving most parts of rural communities, Energy Minister Soda Zhemu has said.
Commissioning the electrification of Garahwa and Mukoho schools at Garahwa Business Centre in Chipinge last Friday, the newly appointed minister said the major challenge faced by the rural electrification project was inadequate funding.
“The 6% electrification levy that REF gets through electricity sales and the fiscal allocation by government are not adequate to accelerate the programme or to sustain the momentum already gained,” said Zhemu.
He said this year, the situation had been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has negatively affected the sectors of the economy, resulting in low rural electrification levy inflows.
However, the minister said the government would continue to explore ways of supporting the REF to enable it to carry its mandate of facilitating the rapid and equitable provision of energy to rural areas of the country.
“In this regard, the government, through Treasury, made a fiscal allocation of $70 million in 2020, in order to augment the rural electrification levy in support of the rural electrification programme,” said Zhemu.
He said the energy ministry would encourage and give all necessary support to REF as it looks for other alternative ways of mobilising additional resources for the programme, in order to augment the levy and fiscal allocation.
“Provision of electricity in the rural areas will no doubt lead to the empowerment of our rural communities, alleviate poverty, build capacity and create employment, which will lead to sustainable development and social equity in the country.
“Many other benefits will accrue, among them the reversal of rural-urban migration and economic activities in downstream industries,” said Zhemu.
However, he bemoaned the rampant increase in cases of theft and vandalism on the electricity grid infrastructure, in particular conductors and transformers.
“I would like to urge the community to ensure that grid infrastructure is not vandalised. Beneficiaries are, therefore, looked upon to jealously guard the electricity infrastructure provided from such acts of sabotage,” said the minister.
In Manicaland province, the Rural Electricity Authority (REA) has electrified 1 772 institutions, of which 249 are in Chipinge district.